Sunday Martyr Moment: Seven soldiers in a cave

Foxe's Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book's purpose was fourfold:
  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.
Text from Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Seventh Persecution, Under Decius, A.D. 249, continued

In the year of our Lord 251, the emperor Decius having erected a pagan temple at Ephesus, he commanded all who were in that city to sacrifice to the idols. This order was nobly refused by seven of his own soldiers, viz. Maximianus, Martianus, Joannes, Malchus, Dionysius, Seraion, and Constantinus. The emperor wishing to win these soldiers to renounce their faith by his entreaties, gave them leniency and said that they would be allowed a considerable respite until he returned from an expedition. During the emperor's absence, they escaped, and hid themselves in a cavern. The soldiers' hiding place was discovered, and it was ordered sealed up, so that they would die of hunger and thirst.


The Voice of the Martyrs blog posted a story recently about how difficult it is for Chinese missionaries who obey God to enter the Tibetan mission field. One of those difficulties is the deep spiritual darkness of the region. It is Buddhist, and idols are everywhere. Here is an excerpt of a wonderful short essay about those difficulties, and the grace of God which strengthens and enables the missionaries to persevere.

"The biggest obstacle faced by Chinese missionaries, however, is the intense spiritual warfare being waged in the region. Tibet is a Buddhist stronghold. The vast majority of the Tibetan people adhere to this religion. “The streets are full of idols,” says the Chinese missionary. “All of these people worship these idols.”

"A quick walk through the old part of Lhasa confirms this statement. Everywhere you walk and at all hours of the day, people are ceaselessly mumbling chants, rubbing their prayer beads in calloused fingers and spinning prayer wheels. According to the missionary, penetrating this spiritual darkness is extremely difficult – many of the Chinese Christians in the area, he says, are lazy and weak of faith as a result. Many more go home, disillusioned and discouraged."

"As if these challenges weren’t enough, Chinese missionaries are often persecuted by the Chinese government, which maintains very strict control on religion in Tibet. Chinese missionaries have been thrown in prison and even kicked out of the province as a result of their efforts to evangelize the Tibetan. Evangelism in Tibet must be conducted very covertly and on a small scale level in order to avoid the wrath of the authorities."
In Lhasa, everywhere Buddhists are ceaselessly mumbling chants,
rubbing prayer beads in calloused fingers and spinning prayer wheels.(source)
The fingers of the Buddhist are calloused because they pray and pray but no one is listening.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him (John 9:31).

The seven soldiers that the Emperor sealed up in the cave died a horrible death. Though not as painful as some of the Christians who were being actively tortured, the soldiers took a long time to die, in agonizing thirst, alone in the dark. Except ... they were not alone.

I am sure that they prayed to our Holy God for comfort and to supplicate to Him. They laid down their lives for His glory. Being a faithful God, would not leave them alone in their moment of truth but accept the sacrifice of their lives and their dying prayers as the glory He deserves and demands. I wonder if the LORD sent an angel to minister to them as they lay dying. I wonder if they heard His voice whisper comfort to them. I wonder if they gained supernatural strength to pray and sing even as their wasted bodies lay shriveled and dying.

Even in death, the loss of the breath in the body is nothing, as long as there exists a blessed supernatural highway of communication between ourselves and our precious Savior. For the Buddhist, spinning wheels and counting beads, there is only blackness, emptiness, and darkness. They have the high altitude sunlight but have hearts of stone and dwell in the dark, while the 7 soldiers had the darkness of a cave, but the Light of glory at the end. No matter your situation today, whether you are in a real cave-like dark prison for the faith, or you are in a metaphorical dark cave of bad circumstances, you always know that you can pray. We are confident in Him.

"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15)


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